Winter can be a difficult season to get through for individuals with arthritis or chronic joint and muscle pain. When the cold weather of winter is upon us, many of us can often feel a difference in our joints. Seniors in particular tend to experience increased pain and stiffness in the joints during the winter which can affect mobility and increase the risk of injury from falls.
How does cold weather impact joint pain?
Colder temperatures have been known to intensify aches and pains in the joints and muscles during the winter season. Although there is no definitive proof or scientific evidence to explain why this happens, the fact that such a high percentage of the senior population experiences an increase in joint pain during the winter months is hard to argue with.
One possible explanation is based on a drop in barometric pressure which results in expansion of the tendons, muscles, and surrounding tissues in the joints and can cause pain and stiffness. Another theory is that colder temperatures cause a thickening of the fluids in the joints, reducing mobility. Whatever the reason may be, the cold weather often makes daily routines a little more challenging for seniors.
Managing Joint Pain
There are numerous strategies and daily practices to employ to help manage and alleviate irksome sore joints in the winter:
- Stay Active: Regular physical activity should be included seniors’ daily routines all year round, but staying on top of it in the winter is critical to help alleviate joint pain. Keeping active and mobile helps keep the body more flexible and the blood flowing to loosen painful and stiff joints. There is a whole host of accessible and practical exercises for seniors that can take place indoors when venturing out in the cold seems unmanageable. Even something as simple as getting up to walk around regularly throughout the day improves circulation in the joints. Daily stretching exercise are also extremely helpful.
- Nutritious Diet: A healthy diet is always important for overall health and wellbeing to boost the immune system and ward off illness and infection. Seniors should consume a diet rich in essential nutrients, minerals, vitamins, proteins, and fibers to help keep the body in balance and reduce inflammation to manage joint pain at the source. On the other hand, unhealthy foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium have the opposite effect of increasing inflammation in the joints.
- Vitamin D Intake: Living in Canada, it is often a great deal more difficult to get ample vitamin D when the weather is cold. Since sunlight is the most readily abundant source of vitamin D, the winter months can make it challenging to get sufficient vitamin D intake. Conscious food choices and vitamin D supplements help ensure that seniors are getting enough of the essential vitamin to manage joint pain in the fall and winter.
- Bundle Up: Venturing outdoors into the winter cold can feel overwhelming when joint pain is a factor because exposure to the cold temperature can intensify the pain. Bundling up in layers is an extremely effective way to maintain a comfortable core body temperature while protecting it against the harsh winter elements. Dressing appropriately makes going outside in the cold much more appealing and less stressful on the joints. Joint pain shouldn’t prevent seniors from heading outside to enjoy the great outdoors when the weather is cold. Taking the necessary precautions by staying well covered and layering up helps keep the joints and body warm and mobile. Especially on winter days when the sun is shining, seniors should head outside even for a brief walk to get some much needed vitamin D.
- Make Use of Heating Aids: Applying heat to sore and painful joints with things like hot water bottles, hot compresses, heating pads, and warm baths can help ease sore joints and make seniors more comfortable. The heat and warmth can provide great comfort in the cold weather and can help reduce the intensity of joint pain.
Achy joints and muscles can have a significant impact on how comfortable and mobile seniors feel in the cold weather. Addressing these issues with planning and preparation is important for wellbeing through the long winter months. With a few useful strategies and approaches to daily living, seniors can enjoy the winter despite joint pain and discomfort.